How would the Course have us approach a new year?

Question: In particular, how would the Course have us approach a potential disaster like the Y2K crisis?

Note: I originally wrote this Q & A a couple of days before New Year's Day 2000. It was written in part to address the potential Y2K crisis, which at the time was a issue of great concern to many people. Y2K, of course, turned out to be nothing serious. But though this Q & A was originally written to address a specific new year (2000) and a specific potential disaster (Y2K), the ideas discussed here can just as easily be applied to any new year and any potential disaster. Therefore, much of the material here remains relevant to present concerns. I invite you to read it with that it mind.

The new millennium is, of course, a topic on everyone's minds these days. As I type this, the year 2000 is only days away (I'm actually one of those sticklers who insists that the new millennium actually starts in 2001, but I know this is a losing battle!) Everyone is wondering what this new millennium will bring us. Some say that we are on the verge of chaos and collapse, perhaps via the Y2K computer bug. Others say we are at the dawn of a glorious new age. Still others say the whole thing has been overhyped, and things will pretty much be the way they've always been. How would A Course in Miracles have us approach this new year, this new millennium?

Interestingly enough, while the Course has nothing specific to say about the year 2000, it does contain advice on how to approach a new year. In a nutshell, the Course would have us dedicate this new year to the same purpose that it would have us dedicate every moment: to the goal of really taking the Course's message to heart, applying it to every aspect of our lives, extending the healed perception it brings about in us to our brothers, and thus fulfilling our role in God's plan for salvation.

Dedicating blocks of time to God

Even though time is an illusion, Jesus seems to appreciate the fact that we measure our lives by it. And so throughout the Course, particularly in the Workbook, he asks us to dedicate specific blocks of time to the goal of God. Rather than having us focus on the long-term goal (for most of us) of total awakening, a goal so seeming remote that it might discourage us, he has us focus on small intermediate steps: giving the next hour to God, keeping God in our mind throughout the day, committing to spending a year with God by doing the daily lessons of the Workbook.

In keeping with this idea of dedicating specific blocks of time to God, we find in the Text references to the new year, and advice for how to approach it. These references begin in T-15.XI and occur intermittently through T-16.V (with one more brief mention in T-21.VII). This portion of the Text was scribed by Helen Shucman as a new year (1967) literally began, so we can see in these references how Jesus wanted Helen and Bill to approach the new year. I think his advice applies equally as well to us in 2000 as it did to Helen and Bill in 1967. I will focus on two of these references below.

Dedicating the year to applying the Course's ideas

This is the year for the application of the ideas that have been given you. For the ideas are mighty forces, to be used and not held idly by. They have already proved their power sufficiently for you to place your faith in them, and not in their denial. This year invest in truth, and let it work in peace (T-16.II.9:4-7).

Like all of the Course material, this passage was originally directed specifically to Helen and Bill. In the paragraphs leading up to these lines, Jesus has reminded them of the many miracles that have come through them, miracles that have borne witness to the power of the Holy Spirit working through them. Presumably these miracles came about as a result of Helen and Bill beginning to use the ideas given them in the dictation of the Course. Now Jesus implores them, as the new year dawns, to put two and two together. He says to them, in essence: "Whenever you use the ideas I'm giving you, you experience miracles, and the joy and peace that come with them. You've seen plenty of evidence for this already. Since this is so, why not dedicate the next year to really applying the ideas I'm giving you instead of letting them fall by the wayside, as you so often do? If you do this, you will see just how much joy and peace these ideas can bring you."

This is great advice, I think, for all of us. The entire Course is a program of applying God-inspired ideas to our lives, yet so few of us really dedicate ourselves to actually doing it. I think at least part of the reason for this is that we tend to think of ideas as weak. We think that the real power lies in doing something physical, or perhaps getting in touch with our deep, primal emotions. Focusing on ideas, we think, is impractical, a shallow intellectual exercise incapable of opening us up to the real depths and bringing about a real, fundamental change. But here, the Course's ideas are described as "mighty forces," and the implication is that the reason they seem so weak is that we fail to use them.

So, here's how I would apply this advice to us as we approach the year 2000: This year, let's really use the Course. Let's use it to the hilt. Let's let the ideas we learn in the Text really sink in. Let's apply them to our lives through the exercises given in the Workbook, and the practices sprinkled throughout the three volumes. Let's learn from the Manual how to extend these ideas to others, thus strengthening them in ourselves. I personally have found that whenever I do this, it works. The more I use the Course, the more peace and joy I experience. Its ideas are truly mighty forces when put into practice—indeed, I've never experienced anything mightier. As the above passage says, it has already proven its power sufficiently for me to place my faith in it. And so this year, my goal is to use it to the utmost.

Dedicating the year to forgiving and joining with our brothers

This is the time in which a new year will soon be born from the time of Christ….Say, then, to your brother:

I give you to the Holy Spirit as part of myself.
I know that you will be released, unless I want to use you to imprison myself.
In the name of my freedom I choose your release, because I recognize that we will be released together.

So will the year begin in joy and freedom. There is much to do, and we have been long delayed. Accept the holy instant as this year is born, and take your place, so long left unfulfilled, in the Great Awakening. Make this year different by making it all the same. And let all your relationships be made holy for you. This is our will. Amen (T-15.XI.10:1,4-14).

In the first passage we examined, we saw an injunction to apply the ideas that have been given us in the Course. In this passage, Jesus gives us an opportunity to do just that. The italicized portion of this passage is not meant simply to be read; Jesus really wants us to say these words to our brothers (silently, in our minds). It is an application of the ideas that have been given us—a practice.

What are the ideas being applied here? As usual, it is helpful to place the passage in its immediate context. This passage is the culmination of a long discussion of special relationships, relationships characterized by guilt, pain, and sacrifice, centered on the body, and chosen by us as shabby substitutes for our real love relationship with God and our brothers. The escape from this sorry state of affairs, we are told, lies in the holy instant, an instant of pure mind-to-mind communication beyond the limitations of the body, an instant in which we share the mind of the Holy Spirit with our brothers, an instant in which we step out of time and enter the changeless present: "a miniature of eternity" (T-17.IV.11:4).

The practice given here, as I said, is an application of the ideas being discussed. So in this practice, we silently invite our brother to join us in a holy instant. We release him from the chains our ego has placed on him and offer him to the Holy Spirit, in the recognition that the Holy Spirit is "the shared Inspiration of all the Sonship" (T-5.I.7:1). We offer him release from the bondage of guilt inherent in the special relationship—in other words, forgive him—because we recognize that in doing so, we ourselves will be released. Inviting our brother to join us in a holy instant is the way we take our part in God's plan for salvation, the "Great Awakening." Since the holy instant is an experience of changeless reality in which we see that we and our brother are the same, sharing a holy instant with our brother is the way we "make this year different by making it all the same." And if our brother chooses to join us in this holy instant, it becomes the birthplace of a holy relationship, "the expression of the holy instant in living in this world" (T-17.V.1:1), a relationship which "reflects the true relationship the Son of God has with his Father in reality" (T-20.VI.10:1).

This is what Jesus invited Helen and Bill to do as their new year began. Applying this to us as we approach 2000: Think what a magnificent opportunity we have to make this year truly different from the dreary pursuit of an "endless, unrewarding chain of special relationships" (T-15.VII.4:6) that may have marked years past. Imagine instead setting the goal of truly joining with our brothers and forgiving them the guilt that binds them (and us) to the ways of the world. What a beautiful, uplifting goal! This goal makes our usual New Year's resolutions of losing a few pounds or cleaning out the garage look rather paltry by comparison. Yet this is the goal that Jesus would have us set, and we have every reason to want to do so, since only by setting it and fulfilling it can we find our own freedom. This is a goal I am setting for myself in the coming year. As the above passage says, "This is our will." And "can you to whom God says, 'Release My Son!' be tempted not to listen, when you learn that it is you for whom He asks release?" (T-31.VII.15:5).

What about Y2K?

I've been asked about how to approach the Y2K computer bug situation from a Course perspective, and specifically about how to help our brothers who may be experiencing a lot of fear around it. Of course, by the time you read this, the whole thing may have proven to be much ado about nothing (or, if it turns out to be really bad, maybe no one will be able to read this at all!) Assuming that Y2K turns out to be something significant, let's go ahead and apply the two points above—dedicating the year to applying the Course's ideas, and dedicating the year to forgiving and joining with our brothers—to Y2K. If Y2K turns out to be a bust, simply insert the disaster of your choice.

Applying the Course's ideas: This is the way the Course would have us deal with any distressing event in our lives. The Course would have us develop a wide variety of practices that can be applied to various life situations, a "problem-solving repertoire" as Lesson 194 puts it. I think that virtually any Course practice could be of use in dealing with our distressing thoughts about Y2K. But I suspect that practices which deal with the specific topic of disasters or problems in our external world would be particularly effective, since the Workbook urges us to practice with "great specificity" (W-In.6:1). Along these lines, one Workbook lesson which comes to mind is Lesson 14, "God did not create a meaningless world," which gives us the following practice:

With eyes closed, think of all the horrors in the world that cross your mind. Name each one as it occurs to you, and then deny its reality. God did not create it, and so it is not real. Say, for example:

God did not create that war, and so it is not real.
God did not create that airplane crash, and so it is not real.
God did not create that disaster [specify], and so it is not real.

Suitable subjects for the application of today's idea also include anything you are afraid might happen to you, or to anyone about whom you are concerned. In each case, name the "disaster" quite specifically. Do not use general terms. For example, do not say, "God did not create illness," but, "God did not create cancer," or heart attacks, or whatever may arouse fear in you" (W-pI.14.4:1-5:4).

Obviously, we can apply this practice to Y2K, saying, "God did not create the Y2K computer bug, and so it is not real." In addition to this lesson, Lessons 79 and 80 might also be helpful, since they focus on recognizing that regardless of the myriad problems the world appears to present to us—including Y2K—there is really only one problem (separation) and therefore one solution (Atonement)—a solution which has already been given us.

Forgiving and joining with our brothers: What better way could there be to help our fearful brothers than to join with them, forgive them their seeming guilt, and release them from the bondage of fear? Just as applying the Course's ideas is the solution to all of our personal problems, so extending healed perception to our brothers is the one way to release them from fear, and thus release ourselves as well.

We can do this by using Course practices like the one from T-15.XI discussed above. And, guided by the Holy Spirit, we can express our healed perception behaviorally simply by being kind and helpful in the midst of difficult situations. "Nothing in the world is holier than helping one who asks for help" (P-2.V.4:2). If Y2K does end up leading to unrest and disruption, it is my hope that I can be a beacon of hope to the distressed, a voice of reason in a time of chaos, a center of peace in the midst of conflict. I think the world is in great need of such people, regardless of what happens with Y2K. Jesus sees this need as well, and urges us to fill it: "And let us be the leaders of our many brothers who are seeking for the way, but find it not" (W-FL.In.2:6). As a Course student, I know that the way for me to become such a person is to build my life upon a firm foundation of Course practice, and really commit to sharing the fruits of that practice with my brothers.

This one year we give to God

Toward the end of the Workbook, the year that has been spent in practicing the Workbook is called "this one year we gave to God" (W-pII.14.2:2). And this is, I believe, what the Course would have us do with each and every year: Give it to God. Whether the new millennium brings the total meltdown of society, a new era of peace and prosperity, or anything in between, the Course would have us give the year to God. It would have us dedicate ourselves to making its ideas our own, to releasing our brothers from the pain of guilt through the healing balm of forgiveness, to joining with our brothers in the great and joyous task of salvation, and to taking our place, "so long left unfulfilled, in the Great Awakening." Let us commit ourselves in the year 2000 to fulfilling that place. If we do so, then perhaps we will be able to say at year's end, as the Workbook promises us: "This year has brought us to eternity" (W-pII.In.10:8).

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